My concern is with scaling. I'm glad these cloud servers have that ability, but I suspect it can get out of hand. It would be way less than ideal, but I can probably manage to spend the $240 a year it would take to run a solid instance of Discourse on Digital Ocean. But there are all kinds of variables I just don't know about.
I want to run a small private photography forum with about 8 members. Sharing and maintaining high quality photos for the life of the forum will end up taking a toll on the base storage restrictions of these cloud servers, even within the first year. In contrast, I can buy a few 1-2TB physical hard drives for a home web server and it would be a one-time cost that should last for a very long time.
The monthly payments and the additional costs when you reach your limits with the cloud hosting makes me nervous. I don't have an income that allows for a ton of flexibility right now and I've made it a pretty solid decision that I don't want to ask my members for money toward hosting.
If I break it down to a worst-case scenario of storage:
- Each photo posted is 12MB
- A member posts 80 photos in a photo-oriented topic
- There are 80 photo topics a year
- That would make for ~76GB of storage adding up a year.
I don't know exactly if/how you can manipulate where attachments are stored with Discourse, but if the files need to be on the same "drive" as the Discourse instance, I would have to change to the $80 a month plan at Digital Ocean within the first year. Maybe there are ways of scaling the SSD storage that I'm not fully grasping, and if there are, I would appreciate any pointers on how that works.
The bottom line in my logic is that it seems like a much more stable and cost-effective method to do all of this with my own hardware, but maybe I am incredibly naive and would be in for a world of hurt with this method.